7 Travel Beauty Secrets Only Flight Attendants Know

When it comes to flying, pilots and flight attendants are the professionals. So instead of getting one more sacred beauty item stolen at the airport (damn you, TSA!), we turned to the experts for packing tips. Our aviation panel includes two flight attendants and a female pilot, who dished on all their insider beauty tips. Together these three ladies spend over 200 hours in the air a month! That’s more airport time than we’ve had all year. Keep reading to get all their in-flight skin care secrets just in time for Spring Break.

Water is an in-flight essential. And the small cups they bring around during the food service are not enough. Plane air is very dry. Every passenger on the plane breathes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. In order to bring in more oxygen, fresh air is pumped into the cabin. However, the air at such high altitudes has very little moisture, making the cabin air dry. That is what makes your skin feel dehydrated. “I try to drink at least a liter for every six hours of flying,” flight attendant Felicia Rohan* explained. “I usually drink two liters if I’m flying to Europe.” Another pilot, Anne Schroeder, uses the Camelback BPA-Free Water Bottle With Filter ($20) to make sure she always has H20 on hand.

Downsize your beauty items. There are plenty of reasons to minimize your favorite skin care items before a vacation (and we’re not just talking about the TSA’s 3-ounce rule). If you can’t go a day without your luxe cleanser, have special formulas for acne or sensitive skin, or just hate tiny hotel freebies, fill up miniature bottles. Some brands come in travel-size options, but flight attendants rely on the empty jars at places like The Container Store. You can also head to your local drugstore and pick up the travel-safe containers that won’t leak, like GoGear Travel Travel Tubes ($15 for three). They’re flight-attendant approved!

Carry on the Evian spray. “I’m a big fan of face misting during flight, especially on long international trips,” flight attendant Jessica Martin said. “I like rose water, which I put in my small sprayer because I don’t want a big anything in my bag.” Spritzing your face with water is yet another way to keep skin hydrated in the arid cabin environment. Pack Evian Spray ($7) in your bag, and seal in the moisture by applying a hydrating serum midflight.

You can never have enough moisturizer. To combat the dry air in the plane, you’ll need to pack a face lotion, a lip balm, and an eye cream. Here are some favorites from our panel: Weleda Iris Hydrating Night Cream ($22), The Body Shop Vitamin E Eye Cream ($18), and Burt’s Bees Lip Balm ($4).

SPF is the most important thing to pack. While flying at high altitudes, you are closer to the sun’s harmful rays especially if you’re in the window seat. In fact, pilots count a higher risk of skin cancer as an occupational hazard (now airlines use sun shields in the cockpit to protect the pilots from sun exposure). You should consider sunscreen a requirement for flying. Jessica recommends Andalou Naturals Ultra Sheer Daily Defense Facial Lotion With SPF 18 ($15). Don’t forget to reapply if your flight is longer than two hours.

Losing your luggage isn’t the only thing you have to think about. “I worry about the higher levels of radiation that I’m exposed to at high altitudes,” Anne said. “The higher the altitude and the higher the latitude, the more radiation.” OK, don’t freak out. Pilots are exposed to more radiation than even nuclear-plant workers, but they spend hours on end in the cockpit. As an occasional traveler, you can temper the radiation in the plane by stocking up on antioxidant-rich snacks. Sip green tea during the flight, and opt for a kale salad and fruit over the in-flight pretzels. You can also find skin care products rich in vitamins A, C, and E. But the best option? Fly at night.

If you have to travel, do it in Europe. Some of our panel’s favorite destinations include Amsterdam, Istanbul, and Rome. Europe tops the list because of the great organic food, culturally rich sights, and walking-friendly cities. “My favorite city I’ve visited is Dubrovnik, Croatia, because it’s exactly what I imagined and hoped Europe would be like when I was a little kid and was one of the first places I visited as a solo traveler,” said Anne.

*This name has been changed at the flight attendant’s request.